Here’s an analogy for you: The Rocker is to Rainn Wilson as Old School was to Will Ferrell. There you go – there’s your SAT prep for the day.
In 2003, Will Ferrell was a pretty popular actor, mostly due to his stint on SNL as well as some bit parts in fairly popular movies (Zoolander, Austin Powers). Old School propelled Ferrell to another comedic stratosphere – he was now A-list material. It seems Mr. Wilson is at this particular fork in the road in his own career now. Wilson is fairly popular, mostly due to his own hit TV show (The Office) and some supporting turns in a few films (My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Juno). Unfortunately, I cannot predict Wilson’s future to see if he will become as big a success story as Ferrell, but after watching The Rocker, I can say that this movie is indeed NOT in the same league as Old School, or even any other fairly decent Will Ferrell vehicle.
In The Rocker, Wilson plays Robert “Fish” Fishman, a dejected, immature man-boy who holds a 20-year-long grudge against a Rolling Stone-esque band, Vesuvius. You see, Fish was the drummer for Vesuvius back in the late 80s before he was unceremoniously booted by his bandmates in exchange for a record deal. He now lives with his sister’s family, which includes his nephew Matt, who belongs to a band (called “A.D.D.”) himself. Through some deft plot maneuvering, Fish ends up being the new drummer for A.D.D. and they somehow score a record deal, become famous, and go on tour.
If The Rocker’s quality as a film depends on Rainn Wilson’s comedic performance, it fails terribly. As luck would have it, much of The Rocker’s comedy comes from a motley crew of supporting players; Jason Sudeikis (as A.D.D.’s manager), in particular, delivers almost all of the hilarious one-liners in the movie. Sudeikis bears the brunt of the comedy and he pulls through it beautifully, while Wilson flops around in the background, repeatedly getting hit in the face or the jewels with a bevy of random items. Josh Gad plays Matt, Fish’s nephew, and he too gets a reasonable amount of mildly funny lines to deliver with ease. Emma Stone, as the requisite girl band member, doesn’t get to do much except hold a guitar and look pretty.
Even with the film’s “star” making a complete fool of himself most of the time, The Rocker actually holds up as an adequate comedy, maybe for tweens or fans of cleaner humor. It delivers its morals clearly and concisely, tossing in some humor for flavor here and there. If the Apatow-type comedies, in their raunchiness and relatable stories about adults, are the cinematic equivalent of a steak and potato dinner, then The Rocker comes across as good fast food – quick, easy going down, and leaves you feeling relatively better although you’ll forget you just ate in a flash.
2 ½ 5 stars